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What To Do With a Very Old Bottle

June 14, 2011
Question by: Hans, Netherlands

Q:

We have a bottle Vintage Port with a little label 1934 on it.  The cork is in a bad condition. Our questions are:  What to do with this bottle?  Is it a collectors item?  Can we sell it?  What is the price?  We can send you a picture.  We are looking for your reaction, thanks, Hans 

A:

Hello Hans,  First of all, lucky you! 1934 has always been recognised as an outstanding year, Michael Broadbent adding the note only 12 shippers declared, so a bit rare.

We are not ourselves buyers in the secondary market for old Ports, so cannot advise you re saleability or value of the wine.  In the Netherlands we suggest you contact the wine merchant Wijnkoperij Luuc van Boort  http://www.vanboort.nl/  or Christies or Sothebys, both of whom have fine wine departments and offices in Amsterdam; any of these could advise you if you wish to sell.  Bear in mind any potential buyer will want to know more about the provenance of the wine, so any records you have about when and where it was purchased, and most importantly, some record of how it has been stored, will be critical.

On the other hand, if you wish to enjoy this wine yourself, do read our articles about Enjoying Port (see menu tab above) particularly about Decanting, but I will highlight some key points here.

  • With such an old wine, allow it to stand upgright for an hour, and then open and decant no more than an hour before you plan to enjoy it.
  • Chances are the bottle has a wax seal over the cork and upper neck, you should be able to tap this off with gentle glancing blows with the back of your corkscrew or some other blunt instrument.
  • With very old corks and bottles, chances are the cork will have fanned out into a bulge in the neck and you will probably get crumbs of cork in the wine, just no avoiding it. Be prepared with a funnel and clean muslin for your decanting.
  • Your chances of a clean pull will be improved if your corkscrew has a very sharp end, is relatively fine, and long enough that it will get through the full length of the cork, or as close to it as possible.
  • If the cork breaks part way, remove the partial cork from off the screw, and try again with the corkscrew to pull the remaining piece out of the bottle. If the bottom of the cork is in that wider section of the neck, sometimes the cork just won't compress to allow it to come up and out the narrower upper neck, and you may have no choice but to push it down into the bottle. If you must go that route, try to push it down with something blunt so that it stays in one piece, rather than breaking up.

Good luck, whatever you decide to do with your bottle of Vintage Port. ,



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